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Most stainless steel is “dishwasher safe.” That said, Lodging Kit Company recommends hand-washing stainless steel products, as regardless of quality, all stainless products are capable of rusting when washed in a dishwasher. There are many factors that may contribute to this.

Possible factors contributing to stainless steel rusting or pitting in a dishwasher:

  • Detergent containing bleach or citrus can lead to rust.
  • Hard water contains microscopic metal deposits that bond to the stainless steel and themselves rust.
  • Metal water pipes can contain rust or metal deposits that will often lead to rust appearing on any stainless steel in the dishwasher.
  • Washing more than one type of metal in the same load may lead to rust or bonding.
  • Flatware & cutlery left in a dishwasher with food still on it can often damage the steel. Many foods contain acids or alkalines that will damage steel. For example, citrus, dairy enzymes, salad dressing, mustard, peanut butter, mayonnaise, eggs, salt, vinegar, bleach and phosphates may all lead to rust or pitting if not rinsed off immediately.
  • Steel wool or metal utensils can damage the polish on stainless steel and lead to rust in a dishwasher.

Recommendations for preventing stainless steel from rusting or pitting:

  • Wash new stainless steel by hand. If you’re going to use a dishwasher, at least wash by hand for the first few weeks. A “seasoning” will occur in the stainless that should help make the steel more resilient to dishwasher use.
  • Use a mild detergent that is free of bleach and citrus.
  • Never use more than 1 level teaspoon of detergent. If too much detergent is used, not all of the detergent particles will evaporate with the water during the drying cycle and can subsequently bake onto the stainless steel in the form of fatty acids that can corrode the steel.
  • Do not place more than one type of metal in the same dishwasher load.
  • Never use steel wool or metal utensils on stainless steel products as this can wear away the polish.
  • Try not to over-crowd a dishwasher to the point where many stainless steel items are touching each other.
  • If you cannot hand-dry, at least use the “gentle dry” or “energy saver” dry cycle.
  • Remove the stainless steel items immediately after drying.
  • Flush your dishwasher every few months with a calcium, lime & rust remover (CLR.)
  • Consider taking measures to soften the water at your property.

Recommendations for cleaning stainless steel with rust on it:

  • Lodging Kit Company recommends stainless steel cleaners like Steel-Glo or Barkeeper’s Friend. CLR also reportedly works very well. A baking soda and water paste is also a good option.
  • A washcloth, scrubbing sponge or scouring pad (not steel wool) with baking soda toothpaste can help remove rust.